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Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism

Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism

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Published by: John Crudo on Feb 13, 2012
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By George Woessner

This white paper was published by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (CADS), a global security think tank headquartered in Washington, DC. As a non-profit, non-governmental organization, CADS empowers experts from government, military, academia and the private sector who are committed to solving the security problems of today and examining the defense issues of tomorrow.

© 2012 Center for Advanced Defense Studies

Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism

George “Bill” Woessner (gww2354@yahoo.com) The author began his career in 1984 as a Special Agent with the DEA, working interdiction at the Los Angeles International Airport. He has been involved in criminal interdiction for over 26 years and provided interdiction training in the U.S. and throughout the world. During his career, the author has traveled to over 50 countries and worked with their law enforcement personnel in a training environment. Over the past three years, the author initiated a standardized DEA international interdiction training program and has conducted interdiction training in countries including Jordan, Israel, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, England, El Salvador, and Bulgaria, to list a few. This training relies on utilizing courier characteristics and interviewing to identify those passengers most likely involved in criminal activity. Based on the author’s extensive involvement in both working and teaching interdiction with countries throughout the world, he has developed expertise in methodologies and trends related to criminal organizations that utilize interdiction hubs for illegal activities.


© 2012 Center for Advanced Defense Studies 1100 H St NW, Suite 450 :: Washington, DC 20005 :: 202-289-3332

Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism

Today’s criminal organizations are sophisticated enterprises that operate on a global scale, and are increasingly difficult for law enforcement to identify and penetrate. One area of vulnerability for these organizations, however, is the transportation centers, such as airports and train stations, that they must use along with everyone else. Standard security screening methods in use throughout the world by dedicated security organizations, such as the British Airport Authority and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States can be effective as a deterrent to criminal activity, but they are not intended to identify and arrest criminal elements traveling through transportation centers, nor can they prevent all smuggling of drugs or other dangerous materials. At some transportation centers, interdiction units composed of trained law enforcement officers watch for specific behaviors and characteristics that indicate suspicious activity, narrowing the field of possible suspects from the thousands of legitimate traveling passengers to those few who are most likely involved in criminal actions. While standard screening methods serve an important purpose, interdiction units should be given a more prominent place in our efforts to thwart crime and terrorism.

The purpose of standard mass screening methods (X-ray and random spectrometer examination of carry-on bags, use of magnetometers and random hand searches of individuals), especially in an airport, is the safety and security of the traveling public. Attempts to destroy airplanes and kill all passengers onboard are an ever-present and serious security concern. In the U.S., the TSA has enhanced mass screening techniques in response to specific attempts or threats, including the removal of shoes for X-ray, in response to the attempt by Richard Reid to ignite his explosive-laden sneakers on a flight from London to Detroit (BBC News, 2001); and the deployment of low emissions X-ray machines that can reveal items concealed underneath clothing, in response to the attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear on a flight inbound from Amsterdam to Detroit (BBC News, 2002). While explosives are the primary security concern in airports, they are not the only threat that requires detection, and mass screening methods and personnel are not intended to identify and arrest criminal elements traveling through transportation centers. It falls on active law enforcement interdiction teams to conduct investigations and pursue criminals, whether wouldbe terrorists or narcotics traffickers, in transportation hubs. As security tightens, methods of circumventing it have become ever more elaborate. Numerous drug trafficking organizations continue to use couriers to ingest drugs and money and travel through airports throughout the world for delivery to local distribution organizations. In July 2010, Housrou Kediji was arrested at Bush Intercontinental Airport as he was attempting to board a flight to France. Kediji had ingested 85 condoms containing approximately a kilogram of cocaine (Schiller 2010). In December, 2010, Uemduen Sophawat was arrested in Bali, Indonesia upon her arrival from Bangkok, Thailand, having ingested 1280 ecstasy pills weighing approximately 400 grams (BNO News, 2010). The DEA has encountered numerous Iranian couriers that had ingested crystal methamphetamine (Ngamkham, 2010), and a number them had ingested several latex encased AAA batteries along with the drugs. Upon being interviewed subsequent to their arrests, none of the Iranian couriers could explain why they had been asked to ingest the batteries along with the drugs. © 2012 Center for Advanced Defense Studies 1

Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism Such methods are not limited to drug smuggling. Al Qaeda has adapted to TSA’s enhanced screening methods by adopting some traffickers’ methods, such as the insertion of items into the body cavity. In his attempt to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, Abdullah Asieri inserted a pound of high explosives and a detonator up his rectum and managed to pass through airport metal detectors and palace security (MacVicar, 2009). He then waited 30 hours before meeting Prince Nayef and detonating the explosives (MacVicar, 2009). Such an approach could also be utilized by a terrorist organization to attack an airplane, recruiting an individual to ingest explosives to be passed on an airplane and detonated with a device that was also ingested or inserted anally. To the author’s knowledge, there is currently no effective routine security method that can identify individuals that have ingested illicit items, including the use of low emission x-ray. Perhaps the only sure way to identify such an individual, excluding their personal admission, is through standard or digital X-ray of the stomach and intestinal areas, a time-consuming and invasive procedure. Since the current method of detecting whether an individual has ingested drugs is through X-ray of an individual’s internal organs, and TSA’s current application of the low emission Xray has already proven controversial (Nader, 2010), there is no conceivable way to incorporate such scans into mass screening measures used on the traveling public. Therefore, it is necessary to narrow the field and identify those individuals most likely involved in criminal activity by identifying specific trafficker characteristics or indicators.

In addition to interviewing, minimizing the number of persons who might require more thorough examination by identifying discernable criminal characteristics or indicators may be one way to overcome the current screening obstacles. Precisely articulating indicators of criminal activity will permit law enforcement officers to take appropriate investigative steps that are legally authorized, such as a temporary detention or X-ray if necessary. Criminal characteristics identified by law enforcement personnel in particular venues and types of investigations can be an effective law enforcement tool in locating and arresting criminal elements that exploit many nations’ transportation hubs. In the early 1970's, DEA agents, along with state and local police officers in Detroit and Los Angeles, determined that a number of investigations involved individuals transporting heroin from Los Angeles to Detroit via commercial aircraft. The officers began monitoring those airports and noticed that the drug couriers displayed discernable methods and characteristics. Those indicators proved to be useful tools that could be utilized by law enforcement officers to identify drug couriers. It was during transportation of commodities and personnel that the traffickers became vulnerable to detection by alert law enforcement officials trained in drug interdiction. In the 1980's, responding to the change in distribution patterns of the drug trafficking organizations, airport interdiction units expanded to include bus terminals, train stations, commercial package and freight shipping facilities. The interdiction concept was shared with law enforcement organizations in other countries in the 1990s, and today interdiction units or teams are active throughout the world. While interdiction units were created to address the movement of drugs and money by drug trafficking organizations, it was found that using particularized characteristics to identify traffickers in specific cities also identified individuals involved in other types of criminal activity. In addition to arresting drug couriers and seizing currency from drug trafficking organizations, interdiction units have also arrested individuals with arrest warrants for crimes © 2012 Center for Advanced Defense Studies 2

Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism including murder, financial crimes, credit card fraud, and other felony offenses, including those related to terrorism. For example, in 1993, members of the DEA Greensboro, NC interdiction unit identified an individual traveling on a bus through Greensboro who, when detained, was ultimately identified as Abdel-llah Elmardoudi (Hakim, 2002), who was wanted by the FBI for terrorist-related activities in Detroit, MI (Hakim, 2002). There have been no published studies in the United States on the effectiveness of employing specifically identified characteristics to recognize potential criminal suspects in a transportation location. However, such a study was conducted in Britain after the British law enforcement community received interdiction-style training from U.S. counterparts and began utilizing characteristics that were cited as indicative of trafficking activity in Britain (Buck, 2010). The study examined the effectiveness of using characteristics displayed in prior investigations to identify potential criminal activity, comparing cases that involved the use of interdiction techniques to cases in which only standard security screening measures were employed. The British Study, conducted by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), revealed that application of known unusual or criminal characteristics by trained personnel was six times more effective in identifying passengers involved in criminal activity than the current mass screening process (Buck, 2010).

Our best line of defense against criminal and terrorist activity in transit hubs would be three fold. First, interdiction units should be put into place at all major transportation centers, staffed with law enforcement officers who demonstrate the ability to work effectively in that environment and have been provided with proper training. Second, personnel need to be identified who work in the transportation environment and who are able to recognize circumstances that are unusual or out of the ordinary. Once identified, those personnel should be trained to assist in locating and identifying potential criminal suspects. Finally, flight attendants should receive enhanced training in recognizing potential terrorist activity by passengers aboard the airplane, specifically relative to individuals who ingest dangerous items. The threat of terrorist activity at our transportation centers is ever present, and criminal organizations will continue to use transportation hubs to conduct illicit activities. Interdiction units are effective at targeting criminal elements, and at identifying and stopping terrorist activity with the support of properly trained transit center personnel. The creation and expansion of these units is the best method we have for combating the threats of terrorism and crime.

© 2012 Center for Advanced Defense Studies

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Expanding Interdiction Practices to Combat Crime and Terrorism REFERENCES
BBC News. (2001, December). Who is Richard Reid. BBC News Internet. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1731568.stm BBC News. (2010, October). Profile: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. BBC News Internet. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http:// www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11545509 BNO News. (2010, December). Thai Smuggler caught in Indonesia after Swallowing 1,200 Ecstasy Pills. Thaindian News Internet. Retrieved January 30, 2011, from www.thaindian.com/.../thai-smugglercaught-in-indonesia-after-swallowing-1200-ecstasy-pills_100476923.html Buck, Gary. (2010, May). Validation of PASS Program. Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). United Kingdom. Hakim, Danny. (2002, November). Threats and Responses, the “Sleeper” Suspects; Man Accused of Being Leader of Detroit Terror Cell is Arrested. New York Times Archival Information. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://ww.nytimes.com/.../threats-responses-sleeper-suspects-man-accused-beingleader-detroit-terror-cell.html MacVicar, Shiela. (2009, September). Al Qaeda Bombers Learn from Drug Smugglers. MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://www.cbsnews.com/.../main5347847.html Schiller, Dane. (2010, July). Trafficking suspect held. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 30, 2011, from http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/bizarre/7125994.html Nader, Ralph. (2010, November). TSA is delivering naked insecurity. USA Today. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/ralphnader/tsadeliveringnakedinsecurity.html Ngamkham, Wassayos. (2010, December). Iranians’ top police watch list for possible drug traffickers. Bangkok Post Chronicle. Retrieved February 25, 2011, from http://www.bangkokpost.com/iranians-topwatch-list-for-possible-drug-traffickers.html Washington, DC 20005

© 2012 Center for Advanced Defense Studies 1100 H St NW, Suite 450 :: Washington, DC 20005 :: 202-289-3332

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